The Church claims to be a welcoming space for all, including sexual minorities. Some would disagree, but I do not wish to go into that here. Instead, I want to draw your attention to a piece written by Deb Word, for the newsletter of the Catholic Association for Lesbian & Gay Ministry, Winter 2010. (CALGM is an association of diocesan, parish and campus-based ministries and those involved in these ministries, under the leadership of the US bishops).
This piece is about the work of the writer and her husband as individual Catholics in providing a welcome. But here’s the key passage, as it applies to the institutional church in the USA (as far as I know, it is much the same everywhere else):
When you are working with a population that is prone to suicide1, you need more than band-aids. LGBT homeless kids attempt suicide at a rate of 69%. Why, as church, are we missing this? A search for a model of Catholic Charities reaching out to homeless LGBT kids comes up empty.
Now read the full article, which I have taken from an email :
Surely you can set one more place at the table… please.
By Deb Word
We live in a world with so many natural and manmade problems; the overwhelming feeling is that we can’t fix the world. Yes, we can’t, yet that doesn’t excuse us from doing what we can. As parents of two sons, (one gay-one not) my husband and I are trying to do what we can in Memphis with LGBT youth who have been discarded. We house youngsters (18-24) whose parents have kicked them out after hearing that they are gay. We love them, feed them, counsel them and remind them that they are God’s children.
We began this part of our journey two years ago, after hearing that Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) volunteers were seeing kids who were homeless and hungry. One young man had slept on the deck behind the center; others came in with only the clothes on their backs. Hunger was common in a group that was sharing an apartment with no utilities. Steve and I stopped by to see if we could help, and I found myself on a committee. There were months of meetings, ambitious agendas, and still we had few solutions. When the call came that there were two young ladies with a four year old child, hoping to find shelter… we answered by saying you can stay with us. The girl’s jobs had been downsized, and then they were evicted. They had a place to go in a few weeks, but there was not a shelter in Memphis that recognized them as a family, and would let them stay together in the meantime. We had a four year old grandchild at the time; we just could not imagine him sleeping in a car. That is how the journey began… one small child tugged at our hearts.
In the last 15 months we have had 8 queer youth stay in our home. One stayed only one night, one almost a year. Each of them comes with a different set of issues, a different set of strengths. Some have been so badly damaged by life in a dysfunctional family that they will struggle for a long time to find personal strength. Some, like the girls, have just needed a place to sleep safely until they could get a better handle on life. The young man who is with me now was ‘put out’ by his mom 4 times in his senior year of high school. A short stay with grandma after ageing out of the foster system ended with her trying to ‘anoint the gay out of him’. (He woke to her pouring oil on him on day 4.) One of my kids was DADT’d out of the Navy after seeing a base psychologist about headaches. A few hours later the paperwork was in process. His mother told him (after trying to drop him first at “Love in Action” for reparative therapy) that she felt leaving him at MGLCC was dropping him at the gates of hell. He arrived pale and shaking. I still have the text from him…when on a weekend visit with her he told me “mom, if I didn’t know I could come back to your house tomorrow I would hurt myself. Your house is the only reason I can keep going.” He is ok, we think. He has moved to another state and reaches out to us at least once a month…just to say “I’m ok, love ya.” Another young man I call a satellite kid is with us as I write this. He will move on again. But when things become impossible for him to deal with…he comes back to us. This is the child who attempted suicide in our house. We have hope for him each time he leaves, but his decision making process is flawed, and we won’t let him starve, he doesn’t handle hopelessness
We have decided at the center that housing kids in homes for just a few months is like treating gaping wounds with band-aids. When you are working with a population that is prone to suicide1, you need more than band-aids. LGBT homeless kids attempt suicide at a rate of 69%. Why, as church, are we missing this? A search for a model of Catholic Charities reaching out to homeless LGBT kids comes up empty. God loves us all. I believe that.
Steve and I are told regularly that we are crazy. I think “crazy” excuses others from helping, “That’s just crazy, why would I do that??” Others say “you are saints” also a way to be excused. We are neither saints nor crazy, just folks who saw children in pain. We have given up a little freedom, a little privacy and a lot of groceries (smile) to house these kids. But they are all still breathing. At the moment we can all hope for a better day. My work with Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center reminds me… we have to do what we can in our little corner of the world.
- “Accept the Welcome in Church.” (queering-the-church.com)
- The Rainbow Pin and Catholic Straight Allies (queering-the-church.com)
- Advent: Prepare Ye A Way For Inclusion (queering-the-church.com)
- “Equally Blessed”: Statement on US Bishops’ Elections. (queering-the-church.com)
- “Catholics For Equality” on Gay Bullycide (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
- The Catholic Grandmother With a Powerful Message for Her Church on Gay Rights (gayrights.change.org)